Image: Boeing.

With the worst news for airlines behind them, Airbus and Boeing are now making fast tracks in the development of their next generation aircraft families.

On May 30 in Everett, Boeing commenced final assembly – the process of joining the wings, fuselage sections, and integrating systems – of the first Boeing 787-9 on the former 767 production line. With the three flight test aircraft requiring installation of additional flight testing instrumentation, the surge line was created to ensure no disruption to the ramp up of 787-8 production.

The 787-9 features a 6 metre fuselage stretch over the baseline 787-9, and strengthened internal structures for a higher maximum takeoff weight, increasing range by 300nm (555km) to 8,000 to 8,500nm (14,800 to 15,750km).

The redesigned horizontal and vertical stabiliser is the first on a commercial aircraft to incorporate a hybrid laminar flow control (HLFC) system. The system passively ingests air at the front of the surface, allowing the laminar flow (boundary layer) – the layer of air immediately above the surface of a wing or stabiliser – to remain attached longer. By maintaining a smooth boundary layer for longer the transition point of the laminar flow to turbulent air can be moved backwards across the surface reducing drag by a further 1%.

Image: Boeing.

Production is expected to take approximately two months. A vast improvement on the planned five months for the 787-8 which later became two years and seven months. Launch customer Air New Zealand is expected to take delivery of its first aircraft in early 2014.

Meanwhile over in Toulouse, the prototype Airbus A350-900 MSN-1 rolled out on May 13, had its two Rolls-Royce’s Trent XWB engines started for the first time yesterday after a successful start of the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit (APU).

MSN1 powers up for the first time. Image: Airbus SAS.

A successful engine start brings the A350 one step closer to commencing ground runs, including taxi trials and rejected takeoff tests in preparation for its maiden sortie, the date of which Airbus is yet to reveal.